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Thread: Legality of Self Sustaining Commune, and Land Ownership

  1. #1
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    Legality of Self Sustaining Commune, and Land Ownership

    Hello! I am new to this forum, as I just created my account. Something of this nature may have been discussed before, so I apologize if so and I have not come across it. I seem to be having trouble finding information on the internet about this issue. Anyway, here it is.

    I am coming into some land, a house, a farm, and a barn via inheritance. It has always been my dream to create a self sustaining living situation, and now it has the potential to become a reality. My question, however, deals with the legality of creating a community and the ownership of the land. As I said, I am acquiring the land. I want to start a community, and was thinking about a not-for-profit organization. From the little bit of information I have gathered, it seems as though the organization itself has to own the land? I was wondering if this is true and how it works. I was wondering if it is possible for one person to own land, and create a non profit organization community, run by a board of selected individuals, that will inhabit the land.

    If this is not possible, I was wondering if there is any other (legal or not legal) ways to go about this. I not only new to this forum, but new to thinking about the management and legality of anything like this. All I know is, one way or another, I am going to make my dream a reality and would really appreciate the help and input from anyone!

    Sorry if I sound ignorant on any matters, as I am here to learn! Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    There are dozens of ways to skin this particular cat. See if there are any local community land trusts in your area, drop by, and I bet they can show you many clever approaches.

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    Also, since you haven't posted your location and I doubt we have anyone here, practicing law there, that could/would post answers to legal questions, you have to remember we are not lawyers and you will need the advice of one for legal questions.

    That said as a layman, I was wondering why the organization would have to own the land? Why couldn't there be a lease (after all things like Taiwan were leased for years)?
    Also, is the community already outside of any communties (townships, unincorporated area's etc)? Otherwise, you also might have codes issues (number of families on the land, building structures for housing them, etc).
    How self sustaining? (source of drinking water, septic systems, power sources, etc)

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    Welcome to the forum...sorry I have nothing to add to your questions.
    But, it does seem like wonderful idea.

  5. #5
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    A person or legal organization can own land. They can then lease land in a variety of ways and terms to other individuals or groups. Nonprofits can own or lease property.

    Now setting up a proper lease that protects both sides is the real issue if you do not want to permanently sell land to another person or group. For this you should secure legal assistance to make sure all aspects are considered.

    Note: there are short term (month to month)leases and long term (think anything, even 99 years).

    Note: there is far more to your whole issue than the structure of the land ownership. Books have been written on the subject.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Sad Eyed Lady's Avatar
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    I don't know where you are located, but if you are anywhere near TN I would suggest you check out The Farm. They are a successful community that start in 1971 (I think I am right on the year) when they came there with Stephen and Ina Mae Gaskin in buses from San Francisco. After many years as a commune they now call themselves a community I think, but they are doing something right to have made it all these years. I have not lived on the Farm but have visited and spent some time there a few times and they seem to be very self sufficient in many areas. Here is a link to their website: http://www.thefarm.org/ and I believe Albert Bates is their resident attorney who has been there all these years and would know the legalities and ins & outs of such a venture. Stephen Gaskin just recently passed away, so there may be changes in the works there also. Even if you aren't physically nearby you could make contact easy enough. Just my two cents worth.
    "Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in the midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free." Leonard Cohen

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    Most local Lawyers these days are so um, what is the word I can use here? Anyway, it is about the money, your ability to pay, and whether or not the case is cut-and-dried and routine enough for them to handle. They specialize in divorces or negotiating negligence settlements, breach of contract suits between businesses, & stuff like that, with a hefty amount of cash money up front. At the same time, they have no incentive to expedite matters or effect a good outcome; dragging things out until you can come up with more money is their stock-in-trade. See? You are going to find it a real challenge to find an attorney with the expertise/willingness to help you. Probably, it will be the biggest challenge. One other reason they are so concerned about being paid up front, is that in today's America, deadbeats and sociopaths abound. Lte's say you with good intentions invite a person who presents themselves well into your community. First thing you know, they are causing problems. Their presence overshadows alls of the Good you intended. See? My advice is, don't start an organization. Instead, practice your principles of simplicity, on your own. It sounds like you've got a good stake--land-- free and clear, no other fingers in the pie. After awhile, an individual or individuals may come along that you can get to know, that share your views, and is non-aggressive. But, it seems as though not-for-profits seem to take on a life cycle of their own, in which all of the Human weaknesses come into play--greed, competitiveness and jealousy, distrust, quibbling over minor things so forth. Those type of issues make Life anything BUT simple! Sorry if I am not telling you what you want to hear, but I do believe what I am telling you is the best advice I can give.
    Last edited by Packy; 9-21-14 at 5:59pm.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bae View Post
    There are dozens of ways to skin this particular cat. See if there are any local community land trusts in your area, drop by, and I bet they can show you many clever approaches.
    I find the notion of skinning cats to be utterly appalling! Would you mind using another figure of speech to illustrate your point? Thanks.

  9. #9
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    A lot will depend on what state the property is in.
    You also might want to take a look at cohousing.org and ic.org (Fellowship for Intentional Community)

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